Smiling ministers hail the creation of 1,000 new jobs at Stream Global Services in Belfast ... a firm that laid off 1,000 in Derry two years ago
Published 04/10/2013 | 01:30
Nearly 1,000 call centre jobs have been created in east Belfast by a US-based international company which has received Government funding of £3.3m.
But the news was overshadowed by the fact that the same company shut up shop in Londonderry two years ago with the loss of around 1,000 jobs.
Invest NI denies there is any connection or relation between the job losses in Derry and the new jobs in Belfast.
Stream Global Services will employ around 943 people on an average salary of £14,000 at its 'intelligent contact centre', Heron Avenue in the Harbour Estate.
Total salaries will contribute £14m annually to the Northern Ireland economy and half of the workforce has been recruited.
The company already employs around 750 people in a call centre at Springvale in west Belfast.
Yesterday the First and Deputy First Ministers, as well as the Employment and Enterprise Ministers, turned out to herald the company's arrival in east Belfast.
Invest NI has offered £2.8m through its jobs fund and the Department for Employment and Learning nearly £496,500 under its assured skills programme.
The company has made no capital investment apart from what it will contribute in salaries.
Stream formerly employed 1,000 people in Derry before shutting its operations in the city in 2011 after around 15 years,
However, a spokeswoman for Invest NI said the decision to close in Derry and open in Belfast two years later were unrelated, but followed Stream's acquisition of direct marketing company LBM.
It's understood the expansion by LBM had been on the cards for 18 months and was then steered by Stream after it acquired LBM earlier this year.
But Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin said the DETI minister and Stream Global Services should explain the "rationale for running down the Stream operation in Derry while creating jobs in Belfast".
"Are we to see in another 10 years, when the claw-back period for the present grants run out, that Stream will run down its operation, move somewhere else and be grant-aided once again?"
The Invest NI spokeswoman said that was not the case: "To suggest that Stream will simply take Government assistance and then move the jobs elsewhere is an unfair and inappropriate accusation that sends the wrong message."
But First Minister Peter Robinson said Stream's decision to expand in Belfast demonstrated the success of foreign direct investment focus and said creating jobs was a better way of tackling unemployment than plans by Chancellor George Osborne for jobseekers signing on for three years or more to visit job centres daily.
Mr Robinson said: "Northern Ireland has been beating a path to those who are interested in developing their business to bring them to this location."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Some of the nonsense in relation to what unemployed people should do has to be countered by the provision of real, meaningful jobs."
Stream's Kathy Marinello said it was creating "meaningful work and great jobs" and said all the posts were permanent.
Employment Minister Stephen Farry said it was "not a concern" that Stream could potentially move to a different location.
Minnesota-based Stream is one of the biggest call centre companies in the world, with nearly 40,000 employees in 55 locations. Its new Belfast centre follows its purchase of direct marketing company LBM, which had already set the ball rolling on expansion in east Belfast when it was taken over. Stream recently announced 250 new jobs in Santry and Swords in Co Dublin – 200 temporary and 50 permanent – working on Stream's account with a video games company.